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Mourning My Daughter's Curls

My 4-year-old daughter has quite a head of hair. When she turned 1, it started to curl, and by the time she was 2 she had a full-on afro that got a lot of attention every time we went out in public. These days, the curls have settled into shoulder-length tresses that still garner plenty of comments from strangers. By now, she barely even flinches when someone comes up to her at Costco and says, “Oh, I love your hair!”

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When it comes to my daughter’s hair, my policy has been to remain mostly hands off once I’ve washed and brushed it. I bought a few bows and headbands early on, but she’s never liked them, as evidenced by her ripping them off her head and exclaiming, “I hate these!”

I never wanted to get into a power struggle with her about her hair, and I certainly didn’t want to treat her like a doll to dress up and decorate. My light-touch strategy has worked perfectly until now. She’s starting to ask if she can get her hair cut short. Like short short. As she likes to say, she wants it “shorter than her brother’s.”

I can’t justify refusing to let her have her hair the way she wants it.

Now, I’ve got a dilemma. She’s expressing a clear and definite wish for her hair, and my solemn vow to never stand in the way of her desires concerning her hair is on shaky ground. Of course I want to honor the kind of haircut she wants—it’s her hair. It’s not her job to sport the long, flowy tresses that her fine-haired mother would have killed for when she was growing up (and trying everything under the sun to get her hair to curl for more than three seconds).

I never wanted to be the kind of mom to impose my taste on my daughter’s personal appearance. And I still don’t want to be that mom. But I love those curls like I love my daughter’s blue eyes and the little smile she gets when I catch her doing something naughty. Each of those I cherish, because I so closely associate them with my baby girl.

But my desire to hold on to the curls doesn’t feel healthy. It feels narcissistic for me to insist she have a hairstyle because I want her to look a certain way. I can’t justify refusing to let her have her hair the way she wants it.

RELATED: Do You "Assault" Your Child's Hair?

A short haircut isn’t going to hurt anyone, and forbidding it may harm our relationship by setting a precedent that I get to steamroll her wishes and control how she wears her hair. Sure, she’s only 4, and I could make a strong case that I still get to have the final word on the length of her hair. I could, but I won’t. Her self-expression and preferences for something as personal as her own hair matter, and I want to support them, even when it feels like it might break my heart.

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